By Gregg Keizer
May 07, 2007
A twist on the classic Nigerian e-mail scam that steals from the plot of
the George Clooney movie Three Kings is hitting in-boxes, Symantec Corp.
In these e-mails, a U.S. soldier based in Iraq claims that he has found
a horde of cash or gold, a plot point central to the 1999 film. The
e-mail explains that the total "haul," which is often pegged at $750
million but can vary wildly from spam run to spam run, has been split
among the men who found it. The soldier's take: $20 million.
Unfortunately, after he was cashiered from the army and returned to Iraq
to work as -- tugging at the heartstrings -- a humanitarian worker, he
was injured by a roadside bomb and now is on his deathbed.
"The doctors have told me point blank that I would die at any moment,"
the soldier writes in the spam message.
All the recipient has to do to collect the millions -- or sometimes only
half, with the other going to a charity -- is give up an e-mail address
and phone number.
"You are now being e-mailed by a soldier, an American soldier who wants
to share his new-found wealth," said Kelly Conley, a researcher at
Symantec, on the security group's blog. "He is an American, so it's not
like you're sending your money to the great unknown of a stranger or
foreigner, right? This one is much easier to fall for."
In traditional Nigerian schemes -- dubbed that because they typically
originate from the West African country -- scammers claim that they need
help in moving money to the U.S. The messages promise recipients a share
in return for an upfront fee, and therein lies the scam.
"All of a sudden the game changes," said Conley. "It's no longer written
in poor English, where you deal with a stranger for the purpose of
purely obtaining cash for personal gain. Instead it's [an] injured
American soldier who wants to share his fortune with you and charity."
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